Category Archives: PhD

It’s the most miserable time of the year

I’m depressed.

Not clinically, at least, not yet. But I’m definitely in a major slump. I’m crying a lot and sleeping a lot and I feel tired all the time. Everything exhausts me.

Part of it is weather-related, because this time of year is always so dark and cold, and even though it’s not all that cold right now, it is so dark for so long.

Part of it is lack of exercise because I stopped running during the tww in our last FET and then didn’t start up again because (see above) it was cold and dark in the mornings and E. started waking up unpredictably early.

Part of it is Christmas burnout. This is the first year I have really, really not wanted to be buying presents. It’s just felt overwhelming. Q. and I have decided to do “presence, not presents”, so we’re each in charge of organizing six dates over the the course of 2015, which I’m excited about. I’m also in discussions with my family to stop gift exchanging (other than for E. of course). Anything we really want/need we can afford to buy ourselves, and I’m so tired of buying stuff to give to people because they’re going to buy stuff to give to us. We have so much. Too much, really.

Part of it is trying to engage with the end of treatments. Today I packed up a duffel bag of clothes and three bags of books and toys for the son of a very dear friend from high school (we’re going to see them over the holidays). I felt both happy and relieved to be able to give them these things and heart-broken that we were able to give them away because we were never going to need them ourselves.

Part of it, a big part, is missing the little person who was supposed to be here but isn’t.

And part of it is finishing the PhD. I didn’t think this was going to affect me as much as it has- I handed in the final draft of the dissertation in early October and I didn’t touch it again until December, so I thought I’d had a break from it. But I was clearly still focusing on it, even unconsciously, because ever since the defence (and the celebratory party the day afterwards), I’ve been out of sorts.

I haven’t googled it, but I would bet money that feeling depressed after finishing a PhD is completely normal and probably expected. After all, I’ve spent the past six years working on it.  It’s not helped by the fact that I’m not starting a new job immediately afterwards. I’m still figuring out what I want to do and what will work with our family. So there’s a lot of uncertainty and not a lot of answers right now. I know that will change, but the here and now is a challenge.

I’ve been trying to push everything down until after Christmas, but it’s not really working. So, as of today, I’m trying something new: acknowledging that this probably won’t be my best Christmas, but there will be other years ahead when I won’t feel this way. I’m giving myself permission to grieve, to mourn, to feel adrift. It is a year of endings, after all.

And now that I’ve dumped out how I’m feeling, I’m going to turn off the computer and go for a run while the sun is still shining.


Filed under Anxiety Overload, Friends, Grief, Life after the PhD, Loss, Mirror, Mirror (Body Image), My addled brain, PhD, Running, Second Thoughts, Sleep, Three's Company

2014: A year of endings

Today I submitted the final version of my dissertation.

My university no longer requires hard copies, so it was a relatively simple matter of uploading the PDF and filling out a few extra details. It was made a little more interesting by the fact I realized late on Sunday night that today was the very LAST day on which I could submit the dissertation without having to wait until January and register for another term (even though the university doesn’t shut for Christmas until the 24th). So that led to rather a lot of e-mails between myself, my supervisor and the chair of the examination committee, and then a lot more e-mails between myself and the graduate program assistant. But it all worked out in the end- the link came through this morning as promised and it took me less than ten minutes after I’d started the process (including a couple of minutes spent waiting for my computer to load the 398 page PDF so I could just double check it was the right version).

Anyway, I am, for all intents and purposes, done my PhD. Convocation still lies ahead, and I may well have to dress up in robes and prance across a stage (even though I would rather take the degree in absentia) because it would be good for my program to have tangible proof that PhDs are finishing. We’ll see. But the PhD was finished in 2014. That’s how it will be counted.

Two other things ended in 2014.

My second, and last, pregnancy.

And my hopes for a second child.

We had our follow up appointment with our fertility specialist last week. Q. was able to go as well because my sister was in town (not the one who lives in the same city- she was overseas- but the other one) and kindly agreed to look after E.

It was uninspiring.

I wasn’t surprised by this.

I had taken the time to type up all of the details of our two IVF cycles (culled from this blog): # eggs retrieved, # mature, # fertilized, maturation rate, attrition rate, etc. It made things much easier when it became obvious that he hadn’t reviewed our chart in any way before meeting with us.

He was 90 minutes late. This was apparently due to a crisis in the OR, but the man always runs 90 minutes late so I can’t see why they bothered to give us an explanation. It meant we had to endure a very long and awkward conversation with my favourite ultrasound tech who must now hold a managerial position in the clinic. She spent much of it trying to convince us to change our minds.

Both she and Dr. L. told us that it will be difficult when E. gets older and starts asking why everyone around him has a brother or sister. They told us that we won’t be around one day and it will be better for E. not to be alone.

This was, frankly, insulting. I can’t believe that anyone would come to that clinic having decided to end treatments and yet somehow have failed to consider the repercussions of such a decision.

Dr. L. really, really didn’t want to let us go. He started making suggestions: a short-protocol IVF. Putting back three embryos.

I don’t want to have to selectively reduce.

When I got home I did a bunch of Googling and discovered my gut feeling was right- short-protocol IVFs are NOT good protocol for PCOS patients. We need long and slow to get good eggs.

I think he just suggested it because it would be ‘easier’ on us- less time at the clinic. I don’t think he really thought about whether it would be the right thing for my particular set of issues.

He danced around the subject whenever Q. tried to ask him a question about success rates and numbers. I wish my sister could have come with us as she is better at hard questions and would probably have been able to better pin him down.

I came out of the appointment conflicted, but I wasn’t once the dust had settled and I had some time to think.

I just don’t trust my f/s enough to do another cycle. I’m tired of the chaos of my clinic. I’m tired of his perpetual lateness. IF we went back, I would ask to transfer to another doctor, who is always on time and who always remembers me when he sees me. But we’re not even likely to do that.

I know what we will not do, under any circumstances, in building our family.

We will not move to another clinic and start over again. That ship has sailed.

We will not adopt.

We will not use donor eggs.

We will not use a surrogate.

We would probably do another IVF cycle, with the other doctor, if E. were still two, or if our insurance covered procedures and not just medications, or if our province actually funded IVF like they have been suggesting they will, eventually.

There are circumstances under which I can see us trying again.

But those circumstances don’t reflect our lives as they exist today.

And so 2014 is likely to be embedded in my memory as the year in which things ended.

Some good.

Some bad.

But all of them over.

I hope it lets 2015 be a fresh start.


Filed under 2.0 Pregnancy, Grief, Life after the PhD, Lonely Onlies?, Loss, PhD, Second Thoughts, Siblings, Three's Company


Dr. Turia!

Very minor revisions (read: a handful of typos) and they want to nominate the dissertation for the university prize. Was praised to the skies for the clarity and elegance of my writing.

I may never have a job in my field.

I may never ‘use’ the PhD.

But no one can take it away from me.


Filed under Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Life after the PhD, PhD

The proof is in the paper


I picked up something on Saturday, all bound up and ready for the examiners.


It does feel kind of nice to see it like that. Tangible proof that I did it, that these past four years (six if you include the coursework and comprehensive exam years) weren’t all for naught.

Onwards to the defense.

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. For the other participants this week, see here.


Filed under Life after the PhD, Microblog Mondays, PhD

Giving thanks

Microblog_MondaysIt is Thanksgiving here.

For the first time since we moved back to a country which celebrates Thanksgiving, we haven’t left the city.

Yesterday Q., E. and I sat on the couch together and watched Finding Nemo, and E. got all the way through it, even if he spent much of the movie with his stuffed Puppy on his head, ready to drop in front of his eyes if he became too frightened.

Then we sat at the table together and ate roast beef and roasted potatoes and carrots and bumbleberry pie with homemade ice cream for dessert (because Q. really is that amazing) and E. talked non-stop about the movie, about French vocabulary, about how the digestive system works, about why Pluto isn’t considered a planet anymore, and about all the chilis we harvested from our garden. He paused only occasionally to look into his bowl to see if some small portion of pie or ice cream had escaped his spoon.

Then he went to bed, and Q. and I lounged around on the couches reading books, and I read for fun and felt no guilt because all four of my committee members have given the green light to my dissertation and it’s out of my hands now until I defend. We went to bed and I stopped in at E’s room, as I do every night, to adjust his covers and give him a kiss.

This morning I woke up early and ran through the streets, ran long enough and far enough that my mind stopped churning and I could just breathe and be.

I am healthy and happy. I love and I am loved.

And I am grateful.

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. For the other participants, click here.


Filed under Joy, Life after the PhD, Microblog Mondays, PhD, Running


Microblog_MondaysI really love my public library system.

It has almost every book I could want.

It delivers my holds to my home branch and e-mails me to tell me they’ve arrived.

It lets me put my holds on hold when I’m going to be away and keeps my place in line for when I make them active again.

Every now and then, however, despite my best efforts, all my holds come in at once.

Last week these turned up, all within two days of each other. I picked them up the day I found out I’d lost two weeks of revision time.

IMGP0196There’s a pure comfort trip back to one of the fantasies I most loved when I first discovered the genre as a teenager which I still love even though it is so terribly written, two books in a shadow series I never got round to reading when it was first published (although I adored the original), the second book in a series I’m just now beginning to read, and a book about motherhood in the modern world. Plus one more waiting for me at my branch because I’ve been so out of control I didn’t even have time to log in and make the rest of the holds inactive (I got the e-mail yesterday).

They have nothing to do with my thesis topic.

I haven’t touched one.

They’re waiting for me.


This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. Click here to see the other participants.


Filed under Books, Life after the PhD, PhD

Moving the goalposts

My Dad spent a long time in the military. One of the side-effects of this career is obsessive punctuality (something which all three of his daughters have picked up. Seriously- no one worries about being on time as much as we do). My Dad also likes to do things efficiently. The result of this is that if we have an agreed upon time at which we are going to do something (like get in the car to start a lengthy drive to visit relatives) and my Dad happens to wake up earlier than expected that particular morning, he has a bad habit of trying to move up the departure time to the new time at which HE will be ready. He won’t tell any of us this (because we are all still sleeping, assuming the original departure time still stands), but he will get crankier and crankier as the morning progresses, even if we are all in the car two minutes before we were originally supposed to leave (see? we’ve all been well trained), because HE could have left earlier.

Now that we’ve all realized he does it, we’ve started calling him on it a bit more. “Dad,” we’ll say, while we eat breakfast and he “lounges” in the living room, showered, dressed, fed, and obviously dying to hit the road. “Stop moving the goalposts.”

He is getting better. I find it hilarious, except that apparently I do it too. Q. nearly always calls me out on it, and most of the time it is a result of the difference between us about how long I think it will take to get somewhere (because we have to be there early) and how long Q. thinks it will take (because the world won’t end if we’re five minutes late because we didn’t get a smooth transit connection). But, I have to admit, there are times where I’ve done things really efficiently and then thought to myself, “Hey, we could leave half an hour earlier now!”

I am my father’s daughter.

It’s all fun and games until the goalposts get moved on you. Yesterday my supervisor e-mailed to say that the prof he’d approached is willing to act as my external examiner. This particular prof is quite a big name in our field, and if he likes the thesis it will be a very good thing to have him as a referee.

But he moved my goalposts. He’s supposed to only get the thesis six weeks before the scheduled defense date, but he’s asked for it ASAP (pleading bad eyesight as slowing any reading progress).

My supervisor supports me, and has reiterated that this prof can’t demand the thesis before the six week mark, but his e-mails have had an underlying tone of “if there is any possible way to get things done earlier that would really be good”.

So today I talk to the admin assistant at E.’s nursery school to see if E. can stay for the afternoon session on Friday this week and for two days next week as well. Last night Q. agreed to basically be a single parent for the next two weekends.

I just had a fire lit under my ass when it comes to getting the revisions done.

October 6th.

That’s my new goalpost.


Filed under Anxiety Overload, Family, PhD